Time to take a test

The past several weeks have been devoted to shooting paper. However, there’s an indoor 3D tournament coming up in a couple of weeks. So, I’ve changed my practice. In the afternoons, rather than shoot paper twice in a day, the second practice has been against 3D targets.

Last week, I replaced a well worn 60X string with a new 60X string. That meant making some minor adjustments on my sight. Once that was concluded it seemed ideal to take a test on the 3D range.

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The test method is simple. The day before I moved my targets around a bit. During the test they would look different. The first step, following a 6-arrow warm-up at 20 yards, was to approach each target and record what I perceived as the distance. Then, take the shot. Before leaving the stake take a measurement of the distance using a range finder. There were 20 targets in total. Ten animals shot once each, then the sequence repeated from a different stake.

The results weren’t great. The difference between my estimation of yardage and the range finder was 1.1 yards. This seems petty good at first glance, but there were three targets with too great of an error: one at 7 yards, one at 5 yards, and one at 3 yards.

The 5-yard and 3-yard errors were both on the same target, a mosquito. The mosquito, a Reinhart product, is a little on the dark side. The target is positioned in a dark spot with dense foliage surrounding it. The resulting scores on the insect were a 5 and an 8. The 7-yard error seemed to be in my favor and the shot resulted in a 10.

Overall, I shot a 198 with 8 Xs at a maximum distance of 45 yards. This wasn’t close to my best score of 216, however, the maximum distance for that score was 35 yards. (An old hunter class score using pins, 20 targets.)

When I “take a test” I attempt to set-up a range where I am cold to the targets. I vary the distance. The targets are also arranged to that the shot is realistic and fairly difficult. I record data and notes during the test. From those notes data is entered into a statistical database using Excel. Review of the data helps build a training plan for the new few weeks.

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What a typical field record sheet looks like

In the past I’ve had a number of archers expound to me that I should not keep my scores and that I shouldn’t worry about them. I should simply shoot and work on form. From the onset I completely disagreed. True, I work on form with every shot. But, without data and notes I’d be losing valuable information about my progress. Not only do I frequently “take a test” I log notes on shots, crunch the data, and record what target I shot. That is, I record the animal type for the shot (if shooting 3D), or whether it was a 3-spot Vegas style, 3-spot vertical, or a 5-spot.

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Data transfered to one of my computers

During some training I specifically don’t keep records. Why?  It is too much to keep records, and a bit weird, during a tournament. So, I conduct many practices in the manner of a competitive event. I also have days that I relax and shoot entirely for fun. But, without a written record of progress that is aimed toward specific goals, well every shot is simply shooting for fun. And that, too is okay should it be what you’re aiming for.

A new coach

Shooting and practicing solo can lead to bad habits and a stagnation in skill. At least that’s my opinion. I think it is good to have a coach. Thursday, I had a lesson with my third coach. He’s also a good friend, Norman Mitchell.

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Archery Coach and Chief Petty Officer (retired) Norman Mitchell.

Norman is a USA Archery Coach. He’s, also, a competitive archer. During a one hour coaching session I picked up two pointers that I’ve already begun incorporating into my archery.

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You can shoot all day and chances are you will improve. Well, you can’t really shoot all day, but you can shoot a lot in a day. I shoot a lot and my scores are consistently less than perfect. If perfect equals 100% (hitting the center every time) my average is 92%. Occasionally, I’ll hit 100% in practice shooting a 5-spot, but I’ve never done it on a 3-spot. Actually, my 5-spot average is 98%, but it’s the 92% that has the greatest room for growth or 8% improvement.

Two-percent improvement might come from marginal gains associated with equipment. The correct set-up of my bow, correct point on my release where the arrow is freed, the right arrows. Little technical elements to shooting, at this point, should give me very small gains, no more than perhaps 2%.

The final 6% is tougher. That’s where another set of eyes looking for slight errors in form come into play. I estimate a good coach can help with at least 4% the 8% marginal deficit. The final two percentages I think are strictly mental.

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If you’re shooting competitively a coach can be very valuable. In fact, all sports have coaches for athletes. No matter how good you are, there’s not a downside to getting a qualified coach to keep an eye on your practice.

One of those mornings

Despite a good nights rest, coffee with a good breakfast, it was just a plain dumb way to start the day’s practice.

There are a lot of indoor shoots on the horizon. So, I’ve been practicing more shooting spots versus 3D animals. It hasn’t been easy; the weather has been very uncooperative.

The wind, yesterday, was blowing at a constant 17 mph with gusts to 25 mph. It felt worse. In addition, there was a light rain. I ended up opening the barn doors of my shed and shooting from inside the shed out toward the target. That distance was only 25 yards.

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Opps

This morning it was hot, humid, and for the moment windless. Skipping my run I took advance of the conditions. No wind is a rare thing here and I was happy to shoot.

Some first shots are really dumb. Being eager to fire off an arrow, which I did, I neglected to adjust my sight to 20 yards. Thankfully, my last shot yesterday wasn’t from 50 yards.